Renovation exercise smacks of corruption, incompetence and corporate greed

The October 30 collapse of the 143-year-old suspension bridge or jhulta pul on the Machchhu river at Morbi in Gujarat, the BJP’s model state, claiming 135 innocent lives, (some reports put the casualties at 141), including at least 56 children, is a tragedy of the first order.

The ongoing probe into the collapse, till November 6, has revealed how the Oreva Group sub-contracted the renovation to Dhrangadhra-based firm DevPrakash Solutions and its claim of “full and final” renovation of the suspension footbridge was little more than cosmetic work on which the company spent only `12 lakh, or 6% of the allotted `2 crore. Oreva Group chairman Jaysukh Patel, whose firm wrangled a 15-year maintenance and operation contract with the Morbi Nagar Palika last March, announced on October 24, only four days before the tragedy, that the bridge was ready and safe to be reopened on Gujarati New Year. He said the renovation, spanning six months, was complete.

The probe also reveals that the subcontractor, too, lacked the technical know-how required for such work. The money spent on repairing the bridge is mentioned in documents seized from DevPrakash Solutions.

The findings of the investigation are in line with that of the Forensic Science Laboratory, which said there was no sign of the structure getting anything beyond a nip and tuck. “The only fitness test of the bridge was the stroll across the carriageway that Patel and his family took on October 24,” an official reportedly said.

The entire exercise of renovation of the bridge smacks of corruption, incompetence and corporate greed on the part of the various agencies.

The tragedy of this magnitude should have humbled the ruling party members and its supporters. But this is not the case. They are hell bent on shaking themselves off any responsibility whatsoever. Unfortunately, there is no apology, no resignation on the part of the state government. But rather they are taking to social media, several Twitter handles to allege ‘conspiracy’ and ‘ploy to defame Gujarat government’. There was a time when then Railway and Transport Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri sent his resignation to Prime Minister Nehru, taking the responsibility of train derailments twice in 1956. But today politicians have turned so thick-skinned that tragedies of high magnitude occur, and they simply stoop to take shelter in ‘conspiracy theories’. 

Also, after the suspension bridge collapse in Gujarat, efforts were made to rescue the survivors. Some people were rescued, mostly by the local people including about 100 Muslim youth belonging to neighbouring Makrani Vas. But there is no recognition of these Good Samaritans.

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